IT ALL boils down to this. Months of speculations and days of training all boil down into that first home game of the Philippine national football team in the World Cup qualifiers against dangerous Bahrain, which at No. 106 in the world and at No. 13 in Asia is the second-highest ranked team in our group next to Uzbekistan.
Technically, it’s going to be a home game, but the fans will determine whether tonight’s match will be one played at home.
There’s no doubt that we have the a collection of the best players available all over the world, but let’s not forget that Bahrain is the 13th best team in Asia and they’ll be far from impressed when we parade a squad of players who see action in Germany, China, Australia and England.
Stephen Schrock, returning to the team after a falling out with coach Thomas Dooley last year, is expected to be the focal point of the Azkals play, especially with the way he’d run defenses to shreds, but how effective would he be with new teammates Iain Ramsay, Luke Woodland or even Kevin Ingreso? Should those recruits be given the starting spots?
For some, expecting a win might be far-fetched, but that should be the target of the team. We also have Uzbekistan and North Korea in our group and the Koreans are ranked low, that’s because of the lack of friendlies, not because of talent. This team has made the World Cup, something we are still dreaming of.
We need all the points we can get in the qualifiers and three points at home is the best way. Losing at home is the worst possible start.
Can we do it?
I think so. I hope so. I believe so.
Faith is for Sunday school, yes, but a little faith on the team, at this moment, can go a long way.
Whatever you think of the preparation, or lack of it, doesn’t matter anymore.
Nothing matters anymore.
Only the team does.
And tonight, we’ll finally know how good they really are.
So be there, if you’re near the venue or tune in if you’re not.
REACTION ON LGR. Here’s an interesting reaction by a Sebastian Guardiola to my previous column, where I wrote about the Azkals now having LGR as their kit provider.
He wrote,”I really liked Puma ... I’m guessing the reason the team is going local with the kit provider is to offset the number of Filipinos born and raised outside of the country that are on their roster, alleviating the negative publicity always associated with it. At least, you’ve got something homegrown on the Azkals.”